Staying productive:
Some good strategies for extending laptop battery life

For the frequent business traveler, there’s only one thing more frustrating than being stuck in an airport waiting for a long-delayed flight: Waiting in an airport for a long-delayed flight with a dead battery in your laptop computer. We’ve all become so dependent on our computers that when the computer’s down, we’re down, too.

On the plane or in the airport, an electric outlet can be hard to find. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of tricks to help extend the life of your laptop batteries.

General considerations:

• Become compulsive about always starting a trip (and never leaving the hotel) without fully charged batteries. Because short recharges of your battery can shortened the battery’s useful charge, this can take some careful advance planning.

• Buy extra batteries, buy the best and develop a routine for keeping them all charged.

• Belong to airline travel clubs that offer access to airport lounges. You are more likely to have access to power in these lounges than elsewhere in the airport. (See the article on airport electric outlets, this issue.)

Computer considerations:

• When buying a laptop, pay careful attention to its power requirements, the type of batteries that come with the computer, the cost of additional batteries, the ease with which new batteries can be inserted or attached, and the time it takes to recharge your batteries.

• When making purchase decisions, pay careful attention to the sophistication of the routines your computer uses to minimize power use. Adjust the timing on your screensaver, how quickly your computer shuts down the monitor, and other operations to fully minimize power use.

• Reduce the frequency of auto-saves in your word processor and other software so that your system can shutdown the hard drive for longer periods.

• Minimize use of heavy power feeders in your computer such as diskette drives and CD-ROM readers. Remove PCMCIA cards when not in use.

• Keep the brightness of your screen at a minimum. Better still to use black and white mode.

All batteries are not created equally. Generally you get what you pay for. If battery life is important to you, spend the extra money. If it’s really important to you, you can spend quite a lot. For $399 you can get a 15-hour battery pack for many Toshiba and HP notebooks. In the $150 range you can buy re-chargers that re-juice two batteries at once.


For more detailed advice, you might like to post a query on the laptop computer newsgroup comp.sys.laptops. A company in the US called 1-800-Batteries sells batteries and related gear through the mail: Email:; Web:, Phone: 800/228-8374, Fax: 408/879-1969.

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